Sunday, October 14, 2012

For my students: How to use Twitter

This is off-topic for this blog, although some who are not my students, may find it useful.

In the iSchool, several of us are avid users of Twitter. We use as a way of staying connected to our colleagues, friends (professional and personal), and students.  Since some students are still acclimating to Twitter, this tutorial will help you become more proficient.

What is Twitter?

For many people, Twitter is replacing short email messages.  In addition, some are using it as a way of taking notes and immediately disseminating those notes to others.  You see this happen at numerous conferences and it is definitely one of the ways that I use Twitter.

How many people are using Twitter?  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 8% of U.S. online adults use Twitter daily (May 2012). People are using it from PCs, laptops and their mobile devices.

How to signup for Twitter -Twitter has a help page on this. 

Yes, you can change your Twitter name, but I would encourage you to select a name upfront that you want associated with you.  
You are your Twitter name.  Now at conferences, it is not the business card that people want, but your Twitter name.  We might follow someone on Twitter during a conversation as a way of starting what we hope will be a long-term connection. - From Being Social, May 1, 2012
Please use a profile photo.  While the photo can be anything, if it is a photo of you, then people will associate your Twitter name and tweets with a visual of you.  That can be a real benefit!  For example, I've had people introduce themselves to me because they recognize me from my Twitter profile photo.

Twitter allows you to receive email notifications.  I find this annoying and so I receive no email notifications.  You may want to try it for a few days, just so you know what you could be notified about.

You will notice that some people have customized the background of their Twitter page.  This is not necessary.  However, if you get to a point where you want to do it, here are directions.

Who should you follow?  Twitter only works if you are following other people and other people are following you.  You will notice that the number of people an individual is following and the number of people who are following that individual is generally not the same, and that is okay.  You do not have to follow everyone who follows you.  You should only follow those people whose tweets you want to automatically see.

Finding people to follow can seem difficult at first.  The trick is to locate a few people that interest you, then check to see who is following them. You may find among their followers people that you also want to follow.  For example, you may want to look at the people I am following (or who are following me) and see if any are of interest to you.

What should I tweet? Tweet about things that are newsworthy.  That could be an ah-ha moment in class, an unanticipated traffic jam, link to a good article/video/web site, information from an event you are attending, etc.  If someone tweets something that you want your followers to see, yes, do re-tweet it!

Sometimes tweets are actually a conversation between two people.  While these can be done as public tweets, you may also want to consider sending them as direct messages (or DMs). 

By the way, Twitter allows you to protect your tweets, which means that ONLY the people who follow you can see them.  I encourage you to not protect your tweets.  If you want to have an impact, your tweets need to be public.

What shouldn't I tweet?  Do not tweet information that would allow someone to steal your identity or that you do not want misused (e.g., telephone number).  Do not tweet anything that you wouldn't want announcement in the newspaper about you.  It is also wise to not tweet about things like what you are eating or that your heading to lunch, unless it is the best meal ever OR you're heading to lunch with an extraordinary group of individuals.  As many people will tell you, they really don't care the mundane activities in your life.

How to I keep up with all of the tweets?  This is the hard part for people to learn.

First, stay in the moment.  Don't worry about what someone said yesterday.  That was yesterday.  Notice what is being said in Twitter now.

Second, setup Twitter lists. (See help here.)  Once you get above 100 followers or so, you need to create lists in order to organize the tweets that are coming to you.  I have setup many lists, including some that are for a short period of time.  Without these lists, I would never be able to know what is going!  For example, I have a Twitter list of 35+ people who frequently tweet about copyright.

Third, once you get into using lists, then you need to consider using software (app or web site) to help you.  Two that are frequently mentioned are Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.  I have used both and prefer Hootsuite (free version).  I use it on my mobile devices and through my browser.

Why do I like HootSuite?  From Being Social, Nov. 30, 2010)
  1. It is easy to use. (quick start guide)
  2. You can see multiple lists at once.
  3. You can organize your lists into different tabs. I have my tabs organized by broad topic areas.
  4. You can sync your browser version of HootSuite with the version that is on your phone, so each has the exact same columns (lists) and tabs.
  5. The free version has a lot of functionality to it.
Yes, I recommend that you use the free version of HootSuite. A few of you may find that you'll need to upgrade to the pro version, but most will be quite happy with what the free version provides.
I should also note that Hootsuite allows you to schedule tweets.   You may not ever care about doing that, but there are instances when it can be handy.

Will Twitter may a difference in my life?  Yes and let me give you a few examples to illustrate.
  • Use Twitter to share  URLs and ideas with your classmates in real time during class (if your instructor allows you to tweet during class).
  • Follow your instructors, especially those who may use Twitter to communicate class information.  You may find that they will share information via Twitter before it goes out through other media.
  • Follow hashtags for events - including professional conferences - and gain insights from tweets being sent from specific sessions.  Often the tweets will contain rich/important information.  It will be like you are reading someone's notes.
  • By following the news media, you will know about breaking news events quickly.
  • At conferences, tweets can help you figure out where people are going and when.  It can even tell you what sessions are "hot".
  • Some use Twitter to organize events like meetups. 
  • Many organizations are using Twitter as one of the ways they post job announcements.
  • Twitter can enhance your professional reputation. While you might think I'd like this first, I'm listing it last on purpose.  Twitter does not enhance your reputation overnight.  Instead, you need to be a steady user of Twitter for quite a while and you need to be tweeting about things that the profession - your profession - care about.  You also need to be following and be followed by people who are well thought of professionally.  How do you know this has occurred?  Perhaps you're meeting people that you wouldn't have otherwise.  Maybe job announcements are being directed your way through Twitter.  It could be that you're being included in Twitter conversations with people that you admire.
Is there more that I can do with Twitter?  Yes. Once you are comfortable with Twitter, ask your followers how they use Twitter and learn from them.  Undoubtedly, you'll find that people use it differently and some of those uses might be things you will want to try.

Finally...I must admit that when I first heard that colleagues were using Twitter, I didn't understand it.  It wasn't until a I was the 2007 Computers in Libraries conference that I was able to watch people use it and talk to them about its benefit.  I joined Twitter on April 28, 2007 and it has had a huge upside in my life.  According to How Often Do You Tweet?, I tweet on average 7.8 times per day, but I can tell you I will tweet much more than that during a conference!  Of course, there are also days when I might only tweet once.  That type of ebb and flow has been okay both for me and my followers.

If you are like I was, you may not see the benefit, but I encourage you to jump in.  Swim the waters of Twitter for several weeks and then see how you feel about it.  You may find that you can't quite live without it!


Remove Background said...

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Mia said...

Thank you for this great post! I can't wait to share it.

Mia said...

Thank you for this. I know I'll be sharing it often!